STC Mike Priefer (11.27.20)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On if the special teams unit has practiced together this week, given the team’s practice schedule: 

“We did some of the specialist work. The kicker, punter and snapper, they worked together. As a group, no, we have not. We have had some solid meetings and gone over everything we need to normally go over on a Wednesday, Thursday and of course this morning. We have installed everything. Today, I will have some extra work. (Head) Coach (Kevin Stefanski) has given me some time after practice to do another 10-minute period so we can get all six phases taken care of today.”

On how difficult it is preparing for a game without more practice time together: 

“I think our guys have been really focused and have done a nice job all year long with these Zoom meetings, like everybody in the league is doing. I am proud of the guys the way they have had that laser focus that we have talked about this week and that we needed to have. Even if we did practice, we needed to have that laser focus to go down to Jacksonville and beat this team. I am proud of our guys. Ask them a lot of questions, go over the techniques and talk about the fundamentals that we have been doing all year anyway. What we need to do today is have a good, clean crisp practice, go through the game plan, make sure there are no mental mistakes, go through the physical type things that we normally go through on a Friday and then we have to go out and play. Correct whatever mistakes we make today tomorrow morning in the meeting and throughout the day tomorrow to get ready for Sunday.”

On adapting on special teams due to players who are not available and if it has been a tense week for players while waiting for results from contact tracing and the uncertainty of the situation: 

“No, I think our guys have done a really nice job. The guys we bring up from the practice squad or the guys that have not been dressed every week, they are ready to go. They are chomping at the bit. We have a great group, a great group of young guys that are prepared every week, whether they are on the scout teams or the show teams or whether they are starting on one phase, two phases, four phases or whatever the case may be. I think they are just ready to roll. I think we just want to go out and practice today as a team, get around and run around and be a football team again as a full team and then get on the plane tomorrow and go win a game. That has been the focus this week. I am really proud of the way the guys have handled it. They have been on top of things in the meetings. Like I said, the mental part of it has been really, really good this week so I am looking forward to seeing these young guys play.”

On Head Coach Kevin Stefanski highlighting P Jamie Gillan’s performance last week after the game and how Gillan has progressed this season: 

“I thought he did a really nice job. It was very difficult conditions again on Sunday. The wind is one thing, but then you combine the the rain. As you guys know, it was raining the whole game, and no excuses obviously. Jamie did a great job. I thought he out-punted the Philadelphia punter, who I think is a very good punter. That was our focus going in. That was one of our main goals is Jamie out-punting (Eagles P) Cam Johnson, and I thought he did. We pinned them inside the five, the one that set up the safety and the sack by OV (DE Olivier Vernon). I thought he did a great job of getting the ball out of there with really good hang time on the last punt with a minute and a half to go in the game. The situational punts were really, really good. We covered well. We protected extremely well. That was our best day as a punt team. I think we netted over 41. Maybe those are not the greatest numbers in the world, but to me, it is not about the numbers; it is about the situations. I think he has progressed as an NFL punter in terms of those types of situations. We were talking about it yesterday when we did some field goes out here with just a specialist yesterday afternoon when we were allowed to come in the building, we talked about how last year we had a lot of really nice weather games. It would be bad during the week and then really nice on Sundays. This year has been exactly the opposite. It has been really nice during the week and tough on Sundays. I think he has grown as a situational punter and as a bad weather punter, and that is exactly where he needs to be. I think he has progressed well this year.”

On if WR Donovan Peoples-Jones is a confident returner:

“I think he has become more confident as the year has gone on. You saw the kickoff return after the safety. I thought he did a phenomenal job. Not many teams cross the 50 on that play, and about 10 of those yards were on his own. He made a guy miss, then he ran over a guy and he broke that tackle, and as he fell forward, he got an extra four or five yards. That gave him a lot of confidence. I think the more he has success, the more confident you will be. Obviously, the more confident he is, the harder he is going to run. He keeps protecting the ball like he has and he better because I have been on him about that obviously all year long. I think the more experience he gets and the more confidence he gets, the better returner he is going to be.”

On RB D’Ernest Johnson returning kickoffs last week and if Johnson or Peoples-Jones will return kickoffs this week:

“How we practice today will be important and how he catches the kickoffs. He and Donovan are always in competition. I think I make that an open competition every week and let the best man win. We have not had that practice time to figure that out this week, but I thought D’Ernest did a nice job—made a guy miss on the first one and got out to the 25 or 26. The second one, we did not block it up very well. They did exactly what we thought they were going to do on coverage, and we let a guy come free. That just can’t happen. Today’s big focus will be making sure that Jacksonville’s kickoff team does not have any free runners, and we are going to make sure that we count it up right and block it up correctly, and whoever the returner is, we will give them an opportunity to get rolling.”

On if he was able to have Thanksgiving with his family yesterday:

“I did. I had two of my children in town, Michael and Katie, and then got to FaceTime with Wilson at the Naval Academy – they are in lockdown mode unfortunately. My daughter Samantha is out in Denver so we got to spend time with family either FaceTime or in person. Of course, like most of us on this call or at least (Director, Community & Corporate Communications) Rob (McBurnett) and I, ate way, way too much. It was a great Thanksgiving. We have a lot to be thankful for. We are playing. We are coaching. We are employed. There are a lot of people who are not in as good of shape as we are in so we have a lot to be thankful for, and we thank God yesterday for those opportunities to do what we are doing.”

On Stefanski’s comment that the Jaguars special teams unit may be the fastest group the Browns have faced all season:

“These guys, they are well coached. (Jaguars special teams) Coach (Joe) Decamillis has done a great job his entire career in the NFL. He is a gadget guy, and he is not just a gadget guy. He will run reverses on kickoffs and on punts. They will run punt fakes and field goal fakes. They will do all of that stuff. Not only is he a gadget guy, but he is also a very sound football coach so they are going to cover well, they are going punt and cover well and they are going to protect well. We are not going to make any excuses. We have been covering it all week mentally. Now, we just have to go out today and cover those fakes, cover the gadgets and go over those sorts of things that we need to do to prepare for this team. They are fast. They are a good group. Their personnel people have done a nice job of gathering a lot of good football players who can cover kicks and do well. The one place they have struggled a little bit is at field goal kicker. I think they are on their fourth kicker, and (Jaguars K Aldrick) Rosas will go this week because (Jaguars K Chase) McLaughlin is on that COVID list. Aldrick has had a great career with the Giants. Two years ago, I think he went to the Pro Bowl, and if not, he should have because he had a great year. Across the board, they are very good. Coach is right. They are fast. They are strong. They will play with reckless abandon. We have to match and surpass that intensity and go out and help our team win.”

On the blocked field goal last week:

“The left end and the left tackle did a terrible job. Their footwork was bad. They were soft. They swam that C gap, and we knew exactly that is what Philly does. That is how they blocked one of the field goals they blocked a year ago. I was very disappointed in that play. That should never happen.”

On the Jaguars onside kick last week, specifically the Jaguars WR:

“I do not think that receiver wants to do that again. You saw the hit he took from Pittsburgh. I do not know if I would want to do that kick anymore. We will be ready for it if they try it. I thought it was interesting, but it is a way to get a guy hurt.”

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